Child care businesses in Missouri that receive federal and state money to watch children will now be subject to state monitoring and must participate in a quality indicator system to give parents a sense of their standards.
Gov. Jay Nixon signed the bill into law Wednesday at a child care center in Kansas City. Though the law was sponsored by Sen. Eric Schmitt, R-Glendale, the child care segments were drafted primarily by Sen. Jolie Justus, D-Kansas City.
The new rules were created to comply with new standards required by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, which oversees the federal subsidy program. The law enables Missouri to continue to receive more than $100 million a year to help families, most of them poor, afford day care so parents can work or go to school.
All subsidy-receiving day cares in Missouri are subject to the new law. It also adds oversight to about 4,000 unlicensed day cares that receive about $38 million of that federal money each year. Those unlicensed facilities in churches, schools and homes had not been subject to inspections by regulators and had no state oversight.
Under the new law, they will be visited by staff from the Missouri Department of Social Services.
The state will establish a system by which the public can judge the quality and safety standards of such day cares. A public website will track whether the child care providers are licensed, meet health and safety standards, use curriculum, and comply with staff training requirements. The child cares will be subject to a hotline reporting system to further protect children.
The new federal standards were created partly in response to increased reporting on poor day care safety and standards.
Federal officials cited reporting by the Post-Dispatch in 2011 that documented deaths of 45 children, most of them in unlicensed Missouri home day cares, from 2007 through 2010. A review of many of those deaths revealed that most occurred in homes that lacked inspections and basic accident prevention standards.
The newspaper further found that at least three children had died in recent years in Missouri day cares receiving subsidies.